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Rome City Council opts for open source

Rome City Council opts for open source

Rome City Council has opted to use open source software for some applications of a new council portal due to go into operation in May, a council spokesman said Thursday.

Linux software will initially be used for file-sharing and e-mail correspondence in the new portal, said Andrea Ambrogetti, a spokesman for communications councillor Mariella Gramaglio.

"The council issued a tender for the portal in which it asked bidders to use the most efficient and economic software. It was the companies who proposed Linux," Ambrogetti said. The winning consortium was led by Italy's former telecom incumbent, Telecom Italia SpA, he said.

"This portal will serve us for the next few years and it seemed like a good opportunity to change for the better," Ambrogetti said. "It's not as though the council had decided to turn its back on Bill Gates. We do a lot of things with Microsoft (Corp.) and will continue to do so."

The decision took account of a new trend in Italian public administration and of a directive from Technological Innovation Minister Lucio Stanca, the council spokesman said. Web servers created for Italy's larger cities make use of open source software in 42.7 percent of cases, compared to 45.6 percent that use Microsoft software, according to a report published this month by the Censis research institute.

Stanca's directive, published in the Feb. 7 Official Gazette, draws the attention of civil service officials to the existence of open source software solutions. Their adoption, it says, can "widen the variety of opportunities and possible solutions in a framework of equilibrium, pluralism and open competition."

"The directive is advisory rather than obligatory," Ambrogetti said.

Another document, published on the Innovation Ministry Web site, cites the advantages of open source as: "Modest cost, transparency and security, non-reliance on a single supplier, reusability."

The council expects to achieve savings through use of Linux software in the medium term, communications councillor Gramaglio told the Rome daily La Repubblica Thursday. "In the short term, what we save on licenses will be spent on training staff to use the new software. There are now 9,500 council staff who use computers," she told the paper.

Rome is following the example of other major European cities such as Paris and Munich, which have switched some of their software from Microsoft to open source. "We are not the first and we certainly won't be the last," Ambrogetti said.

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